The Minnesota Vikings are going to be a team committed to running the football in 2020.
Gary Kubiak takes over as the offensive coordinator and primary play-caller, and in the past the offenses he’s operated have run the football over half of the time.
The Vikings have a stud primary back in Dalvin Cook, assuming they can reach some sort of contract extension before the season starts. Behind Cook is Alexander Mattison, who proved to be quite the effective number two option as a rookie.
Rounding out the depth chart is Mike Boone, who when given the chance has been able to produce with his violent, slashing style. With the team possibly planning on running the football more this season, is it possible Boone sees an increased role in the offense?
Who is Mike Boone?
Before we talk about why his role could be increased this season, let’s just look at the type of player that Boone is. He’s entering his third season in the league after being undrafted out of Cincinnati in 2018, and has played sparingly so far in his career. The 5’10”, 205-pound runner has only logged 118 snaps on offense, but he has rushed for 320 yards and three touchdowns.
He is a violent runner who slashes through the hole and has the power and strength to shake off the initial tackler. Particularly in college, Boone proved to be an adequate receiver out of the backfield and has all the traits to be a three-down back in the league.
In Week 17 last year, Boone toted the rock 17 times for 148 yards and a score. He did this against a tough Chicago Bears’ defense and was playing behind an offensive line that was made up of inexperienced players like Oli Udoh and Dru Samia. Boone has demonstrated the ability to be an effective NFL running back and has earned the chance to get more touches on a game by game basis.
Why Mike Boone could see an increase in touches
The Vikings ran the ball on 476 of their total 910 offensive plays in 2019. That is 49.7% of the time.
That number ranked third in the NFL behind San Francisco and Baltimore. With Kubiak now calling the plays, that number could jump even higher. The Vikings will want to ensure the health of Cook all season long and into the playoffs, should they get that far.
Cook is entering his fourth season in the league and has yet to play a full 16 game season. He first suffered an ACL injury that cost him the majority of his rookie year, and a hamstring injury cost him a large part of his second season. Last year he battled a nagging shoulder injury.
Mattison also was hit by the injury bug, as he suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of the team’s final three regular-season games.
If the Vikings are going to go deeper in the playoffs this upcoming season, they’ll need their star back healthy and would love to have their No. 2 ready to go as well. There were times last season when the Vikings forced Cook onto the field when it was clear his shoulder was bothering him and negatively impacting his effectiveness.
Seeing what Boone did a season ago should make the Vikings feel much better about resting Cook when he’s not 100% healthy. Mattison and Boone could easily share the load for a game or two and be a very effective combination for Kubiak’s offense.
It would also be smart for the Vikings to give Boone a few carries per game. While Cook will get the majority of the workload as he should, other teams have been very effective using a three-headed monster at running back. The San Francisco 49ers did it last year with Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert with great success. Using a three-man rotation will help keep all three of these dynamic runners fresh, and the chances for explosive runs late in games increases exponentially.
Another factor that could lead to an increase in carries for Boone in 2020 is whether or not Ameer Abdullah makes the team. Abdullah was the Vikings’ primary return man a season ago but also saw some snaps in the backfield. He ended up seeing 135 snaps on offense last year and had 23 rushing attempts. With the Vikings drafting K.J. Osborn to be the new returner, Abdullah could prove to be expendable this offseason. If that happens, the scant opportunities he saw in 2019 could end up going to Boone.
The Vikings will likely be running the ball more often in 2020, and that should lead to an increase in carries for Boone. It likely won’t be a huge jump, but he’s proven to be a capable back who deserves to see at least a handful of carries a game. He can help keep Cook and Mattison healthy and fresh later in games, which should improve the Vikings offense as a whole.